76ers

Best of NBA: James Harden posts another triple-double in Rockets' win

Best of NBA: James Harden posts another triple-double in Rockets' win

TORONTO -- James Harden had 40 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his 10th triple-double of the season, and the Houston Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors, 129-122, on Sunday night for their eighth straight victory.

Harden also had 10 turnovers. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Harden is the first player with a 40-point triple-double and 10 or more turnovers since turnovers became official in the 1977-78 season.

Montrezl Harrell added 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting in 25 minutes, and fellow reserve Eric Gordon had 19 points to help Houston win consecutive road games over the Raptors for the first time.

DeMar DeRozan had 36 points for the Raptors, setting a career high with his 18th 30-plus-point game of the season. DeMarre Carroll tied a career high with 26 points and set a career high with six 3-pointers on 10 attempts.

Down 99-95 entering the fourth quarter, the Rockets went on a 15-0 run to take an 11-point lead. DeRozan's run of 12 consecutive points for the Raptors cut into that advantage, but Toronto could get no closer than five points (see full recap).

LeBron's big 4th quarter helps Cavs hold off Suns
PHOENIX -- LeBron James scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Cleveland fought off Phoenix down the stretch for a 120-116 victory.

Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Kevin Love 25 for the Cavaliers. They led by as many as 22 in the first half and 20 early in the third quarter. The Suns tied it late in the third and got within one in the fourth but never took the lead.

Eric Bledsoe scored 31 points and Devin Booker had 28 for the Suns.

James sank consecutive 3-pointers, his only 3s of the game, to give Cleveland a 115-109 lead with 2:46 to play and scored on a driving layup with 44 seconds left to make it 120-114 (see full recap).

Reddick, Paul lead Clippers to 4th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- J.J. Redick scored 25 points and Los Angeles beat Miami for its fourth straight victory, this one a 98-86 final.

Chris Paul had 19 points, 18 assists and one turnover, and DeAndre Jordan added 18 rebounds to help keep the Clippers unbeaten in the new year after they closed 2016 on a six-game skid.

Goran Dragic scored 24 points, and Hassan Whiteside had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Miami. The Heat shot 37 percent and had three technical fouls.

The Clippers broke it open with a 43-21 run that spanned the second and third quarters. Redick scored 14 points and Paul added 12 as they stretched the lead from one point to 23 points. Redick hit three 3-pointers and Paul added another (see full recap).

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is letting it be known he is unhappy about his minute restrictions to start the season.

"That's f---ing BS," he said after practice Tuesday. "I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I'm ready for more than I don't know whatever number they have."

The Sixers are eyeing 16 minutes for Embiid on opening night on Wednesday. He played nearly 15 minutes in his two preseason games and feels he can handle more, adding his previously-injured left knee and ankle "felt great." 

He has expressed his feelings to the team. 

"I always think I have a voice so I'm sure they're listening to what I have to say too," he said. "But they're making a decision based on what they think. But I think that's BS."

Embiid's desire to play more minutes likely will be an ongoing situation this season, or at least early on. He expected to be cleared for 24 minutes at this point. (In comparison, he logged 22:25 last opening night.) Embiid feels the best way to get his body in game shape is to actually be in the game, not training on a cardio machine. 

"I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated," Embiid said. "I don't think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it's reacting." 

The Sixers, however, are continuing to proceed with caution with the injury-prone big man. After missing his first two years because of his foot, he underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid also sprained his left ankle in the preseason finale. He has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 27. 

Add that to the fact Embiid is a centerpiece of their future after inking him to a five-year, $146.5 contract extension last week.

"They know that I'm frustrated, but once again you've got to trust the doctors," Embiid said. "They care about me. It's all about the long-term view." 

The coaching staff is faced with the tricky task of managing Embiid's allotted minutes over a 48-minute span. Brett Brown is considering using up his playing time in the first half instead of spacing it out to have him available in the fourth quarter. 

Embiid estimates if he started the third, as an example, he would be resting for 16 minutes before he got the nod late in the final quarter. He said that is "tough" on both his body and on the coaches. Brown agrees after trying to balance his playing time last season. 

"You think it's smart to save four minutes to end a game with him, but the canyons in between where he just sits there and sits there and then he's got to come in and save the day, I don't know if I like that," Brett Brown said. 

"It's on my mind, do we just spend our money and we'll get you more money the next game and so on, and just play him regularly and grow it from that base versus he sits forever and then he's just got to come in and save the day. Or oops, it goes to overtime and, 'Sorry, you can't play against Memphis in overtime.'"

The Sixers will have to balance the medical staff's minute guidelines with Embiid's intense desire to be on the court and the team's record. They are looking to make a significant push in the win column, and Embiid is the driving force behind that jump.

"I think this is a big year for the whole team and me personally," Embiid said. "I feel like I've got something to prove, too. So I want to be out there with my teammates and win some games."

If it were Embiid's call, he would play until he didn't feel like he could anymore. It's not up to him, though. And so there's just one thing left for him to do.

"Like I always say," he said, "you've got to trust the process."

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic as in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said.